On June 28, 2011, the Maine Supreme Court decided an important case on claims of a spouse for an injury to a spouse.  Steele v. Botticello (www.courts.state.me.us/court_info/opinions/2011%20documents/11me72st.pdf).  These are called loss of consortium claims.

When a husband or wife is injured, that injury commonly impacts his or her spouse.  Spouses rely upon each other to share work at home.  They share affection of each other and they share intimacy.  An injury may affect all of these.  Loss of consortium claims are intended to protect all parts of the relationship of a husband and wife.  As a practical matter, evidence in loss of consortium claims may include extra chores taken on by a spouse, loss of work, family or recreational opportunities.  It may include having to live with someone who is miserable and may include loss of sex.  Commonly, these claims are made at the same time as the injured spouse’s claim.

In this recent case, the Maine Supreme Court confirmed some well-established rules and made clear some new rules.  They are:

(1)        Loss of consortium claims maybe filed separately.  They do not have to be filed in the same lawsuit as the injured spouse;

(2)        A release of the injured person’s claim does not automatically release the spouse’s claim; and

(3)        Defenses to the injured spouse’s claim, such as comparative fault, apply equally to consortium claims.

 

Stephen B. Wade